Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Iseult Conlin (CAS '09), named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, talks about Pioneering Electronic Trading Methods in a Changing Investment Landscape

Can you tell us about being a student at NYU?
Iseult Conlin

I had a wonderful experience at NYU. I enjoyed being in a larger city, having internship opportunities, and feeling like I wasn’t on a college campus every day. I studied Economics and Psychology, and I played basketball for a year. I was in the Presidential Honors Program for Economics, which was fantastic. I was also a Calculus tutor at the University Learning Center.

I had the chance to live all over the city in college dorms at Hayden, Palladium, and Cliff Street. I really liked all of the resources that NYU afforded me. Anything I wanted to do, I could explore. I also appreciated that NYU was so diverse and supportive of different perspectives. I felt like it was the first place where I could be completely myself. I valued how the students and the faculty supported and encouraged differences of opinion.
Iseult Conlin: her story continues

What is your favorite memory of your time at NYU?

Going to Prague for a week with the Presidential Honors program is one of my favorite memories. I made lifelong friendships on that trip. I am still very close to many of my fellow participants and going to one of my favorite cities with them was very special.

Another great memory is when I took my first Stern class as a junior, “Foundations of Financial Markets” with Professor Stephen Brown. It was the best class I took at NYU. It completely sparked my interest in looking at financial markets. I absolutely loved it, and he was an amazing professor.

What drew you to the financial sector?

I always thought that I was going to be a doctor and I started on the pre-med track at NYU. The first time I was exposed to formal Economics was in a class my senior year of high school, and I really enjoyed it. Then when I was a CAS student, I decided to take an introductory Economics class and I was really drawn to understanding business and the way the global economy works. After a semester or two, I realized that pre-med wasn’t for me. 

Part of the reason for my interest in finance is because of my mother. I grew up in Boston with just my mom, a lawyer who works with financial firms on contract law. From a very early age, our dinner table conversation was always about budgeting and the markets. When I was in high school, I started investing at her encouragement.

Can you tell us about your current role as Vice President in Trading & Liquidity Strategies at BlackRock and how you got there?

Right out of NYU I started at Bank of America writing and publishing analytical research. I worked with a team that looked at the economies of different countries, and I focused on Latin America. I learned a lot, but I wanted to be more involved in the investment process. After a year, I moved over to BlackRock. At BlackRock, we manage money for institutional and retail clients around the world, helping them meet their financial goals. What I do now is trade investment grade bonds in the industrial sector, which includes aerospace and defense, railroads, transports, diversified industrials and construction machinery.

The market structure of how fixed income bonds trade is evolving and changing. I work with new technologies and electronic platforms, to find ways to solve some of these liquidity issues. Fixed income bond trading tends to be “over-the-counter,” working with intermediaries to buy and sell bonds, which is a little outdated compared to the equity market. My team is working on the electronification of fixed income markets, finding technology solutions to match up buyers and sellers faster.

Congratulations on being named to Forbes' 30 Under 30 list for finance. What advice would you give to current students and young alumni?

I had a hard time in college figuring out what I wanted to do. I think sometimes you fall into it, and it is luck that you find something that you really enjoy. Once you get into it and start learning about the topic, you get to enjoy it and you get better at it.

The best advice I can give is to explore as much as you can. You don’t have to figure out what you want to do right away. That will eventually come to you. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It can help you when you approach a challenge, since you know how to analyze it based on prior missteps.

Try to absorb and read as much as you can. When I was a student, I explored many different avenues. I tried to read as much as a could and learn from as many different people as I could.

What are your long-term plans for your career?

I have gotten very involved in market structure discussions, to figure out what are the right rules for how to govern the marketplace. I think long-term, I would be very interested in working with regulatory bodies figuring out the best way to structure the marketplace and liquidity functioning. We have a market structure team here at BlackRock and I would be interested in working in that area.

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